OpinionMeister

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Small Cuts Are Better Than None

The Washington Times reports that Congress is about to approve a small cut in Medicaid. Link.
Congressional budget makers agreed to follow a recommendation by the nation's governors and cut at least $8.6 billion in Medicaid spending next year, a rare move because Congress usually is leery of touching entitlement spending programs.
Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, and Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, head of their respective bodies' budget committees, said in a brief bicameral conference meeting yesterday that before a final budget bill is crafted, the proposed $2.6 trillion fiscal year 2006 budget must reflect a commitment to entitlement cuts. [...]

President Bush asked Congress to find $20 billion total in all entitlement programs savings this year. But Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, got legislation passed that creates a bipartisan panel to study reforms and the effects that any cuts would have on the states' ability to provide health services. [...]

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, as chairman of the National Governors Association, crafted a bipartisan reform plan that streamlines administrative costs, including revising payment options and accounting policies. The plan is expected to save about $8.6 billion, according to House budget staff members.

$8.6 billion here, $8.6 billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money. Medicaid, like Medicare, is top-heavy with expenses of the elderly in the last year of their lives. It will not happen this year, but eventually the government will have to set priorities and decide if it is a better use of money to prolong the life of one elderly person by six months, or to put the money into programs for children and add thousands of person-years of life. Terminal illnesses are very expensive and leave little or no probability of a major extension of life. Some day, we will have to face these choices. They will be very unpleasant, but they will be necessary.

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